There will be an Alcor Board of Directors meeting this Saturday, December 2, at 11 am Arizona time at the Alcor facility at 7895 East Acoma Drive in Scottsdale, Arizona. All are invited to attend. Lunch will be served.
Monthly archives for November, 2006
Report on the 6th Alcor Conference
On October 6-8, 2006, around 200 people attended Alcor’s first cryonics conference in four years. In many ways it was the best cryonics conference I have ever attended (out of maybe 9 or 10 conferences); but not primarily because of the speakers. This is not to say that the speakers were poor; in fact, the average quality of talk was very high. But too many of the talks were on subjects I had heard before, often several times. I’ll get to my suggestions later on.
The real quality was in the combination of intelligent, interesting people who were there, from speakers to long-time cryonicists to people meeting cryonicists for the first time. Over the three days, I had some of the best conversations I have ever had at a conference. I think I met several future cryonics organization leaders that weekend.
The other high point of my visit was seeing the progress that Alcor had made in many areas over the past year. I arrived on Wednesday and was able to spend two days talking with Alcor staff and witnessing the current spirit of excitement. To me, Alcor’s staff seems like it is the strongest overall it has been for years. The staff is competent, polite, and energetic; plus the new people involved in technology, cryotransport, and research seemed poised to elevate Alcor’s technical capability.
The Scottsdale Marriott was a good hotel for this size of conference, with only one main programming track. The main meeting room was well set up, with some useful side rooms for smaller meetings between sessions. Breakfast and lunch and the Friday night mixer were outside on a veranda next to the swimming pool. The temperatures stayed pleasant so it wasn’t too much of a hardship to be out in the Arizona sun. The programming schedule was planned well, with plenty of time for meeting people, making connections, long evening conversations.
The advertised speaker for Friday night was the Arizona Secretary of State; but she cancelled with only a few days’ notice in order to attend some higher-profile campaign appearance. However, I was delighted to discover that Alcor political consultant Barry Aarons had invited Maricopa County Treasurer David Schweikert to attend instead. At the time Alcor moved to Arizona 1994, Schweikert was a State Representative for the Scottsdale area, and he was one of the first local politicians to visit Alcor. He remembered his visit and was still excited by the high tech possibilities of future-looking companies like Alcor. So he was able to welcome the conference attendees to Arizona with what appeared to be sincere enthusiasm. This is a welcome change from years ago. Always be nice to your local officials. You cannot have too many friends.
Saturday morning’s presentations began with Ted Kraver’s cheerful and surprising look at the beginnings of cryonics. Kraver designed and built the first cryonics capsules in 1968, including two that housed James Bedford (the first person frozen under any kind of controlled conditions, and still cryopreserved at Alcor). Kraver and his business partners later started the first United States cryobank for preserved skin to treat burn victims.
The next talk was one of the highlights of the weekend for me. Arizona State Representatives Michelle Reagan and Linda Lopez appeared with Barry Aarons to discuss the political situation in Arizona, relative to cryonics. Reagan, a Republican, and Lopez, a Democrat, were the two of the main supporters of Alcor’s position during the crisis two years ago where some members of the State Legislature wanted to regulate Alcor so inappropriately that Alcor might have been forced to leave the state. Both took time out from their own re-election campaigns to give a very interesting hour of discussion, with several questions from the audience. I hope that a transcript of this discussion might be available sometime. We can all learn a lot from it. For one thing, no matter what your politics, you cannot assume that members of one party will inevitably be your friends while members of another party will be your enemies. Representatives from both major parties were on both sides during the debate on the future of cryonics in Arizona. By the way, both Reagan and Lopez were re-elected this month.
The three nanotechnology-oriented talks by Robert Freitas, Ralph Merkle, and J. Storrs Hall were disappointing. While there were a lot of flashy ideas mentioned, these talks seemed a bit out of place. Ralph Merkle was charming as usual, but had nothing new to say for many of us. Robert Freitas had a very dense talk on medical nanotechnology prepared, with lots of pretty pictures. But he strictly read from his prepared talk, did not look at his audience, and barely left time for himself or his audience to take a breath and absorb what he was saying. J. Storrs Hall worked with the audience more but was obviously nervous and it was difficult to connect his talk to purpose of the conference. What were missing in all three talks were practicality and the applicability to cryonics today. I doubt that the newer members of the audience understood why there were three people talking about this future technology at a cryonics conference. It was even difficult to me to sort out which projected developments were likely to happen soon, which were a century in the future, and which were too theoretical to even hazard as guess as to whether they would ever become real.
My suggestion for subsequent conferences is that presentations on future technology be focused on 1) what kinds of technologies (with nanotechnology being only one of them) are required and plausible for future cryonics patient repair and resuscitation, and 2) what practical developments are taking place in these fields today. Many of us see the updates in nanotechnology, protein synthesis, drug delivery systems, and genetic research every week in the science magazines and even the daily newspapers. There are amazing things happening right now, and a lot could be said about that progress and how it connects with the needs of cryonics.
One attempt that was made to be practical on Saturday was a “panel” of Tanya Jones of Alcor, Ben Best of Cryonics Institute, and Melody Maxim of Suspended Animation, Inc. talking about their organizations. This was stiffly done, with no real interaction and with some obvious tension as the three individuals tried to give their points of view without offending the other leaders. Melody Maxim is new at cryonics and at Suspended Animation, and I’m sure she didn’t quite know how to handle the tension. There must be a better way to handle this, to allow the leaders to be more open while remaining civil. By the way, I really admire Ben Best for the amount of work he is putting into improving and organizing CI in ways which make its long term survival seem much more likely, even after the retirement of founder Robert Ettinger two years ago.
Professor David Friedman talked about the economics of the future. Professor Friedman was very entertaining, but it was hard for me to see much practical value in his presentation.
The Aging Prevention talk by Aubrey de Grey was better than I had expected. I have heard a lot of anti-aging talks before; but de Grey had some unique viewpoints on what kinds of experiments might be tried to delay or prevent aging. He has recently been promoting a scientific competition called the Methuselah Mouse Prize to increase the attention given to scientific research in life extension. I had not met de Grey before, and in a conversation with him Saturday evening I found him to be bright and enthusiastic. He also made a real effort to present his talk in practical terms and to connect life extension with cryonics. One charming bit was his presentation of an award to 10-year-old Avianna Vyff, daughter of author Shannon Vyff. When she was eight years old, Avianna raised over $3,000 for aging research and donated it to the Methuselah Foundation, which sponsors de Grey’s research project. I foresee a bright and extended future for this young lady. (You can read more about her at Mprize/Vyff)
The presentations Sunday morning were more concerned with practical research considerations for cryonicists. Brian Wowk and Gregory Fahy presented a lot of technical explanation on what causes freezing damage, how vitrification techniques manage to avoid most of it, and what progress their laboratory is making on preventing freezing damage in rabbit kidneys (steady progress every year; but with many technical details still to be worked out). Brian Wowk noted that recent micrographs of tissue suggest it is possible that more brain structure is preserved by straight freezing than originally thought, although whether the preservation is at a level that could result in resuscitation is completely unknown.
One of the high points (for me) of Greg Fahy’s talk was his detailed summary of the original research on freezing damage and preservation done by Audrey Smith decades ago and the incredible persistence it took for her to achieve results. I now have a much deeper appreciation for the accomplishments of Smith — and of Fahy himself, who has shown similar persistence in his 20 years or more of research in this field. Wowk and Fahy both do very well at presenting their points in an understandable manner, with humor and with an audience connection.
Alcor Executive Director Steve Van Sickle followed with an explanation of some of the progress Alcor has made in the past year in developing more manageable transport team equipment, improvements in rapid cool-down procedures, construction of a new operating room, and the beginnings of new research initiatives to determine how brain damage might be different under different conditions of ischemia, and how we will need to vary the cryopreservation protocol for each situation that might arise. I won’t go into detail on any of these projects, because better explanations than I could write have already been released on the Alcor News blog here.
Tanya Jones ended up the Sunday discussions with a talk about a new attempt to develop an Alcor “Wealth Preservation Trust.” Unfortunately, Jones was giving the talk because the original presenter, Michael Riskin, was under the weather and unable to attend the Conference. Jones spoke very well on short notice; but Riskin would have been more familiar with the details of the proposal, especially on answering audience questions. Alcor is still some way from a completed document, but the essentials are that Alcor is trying to develop standardized language for a Trust that would allow a person to be placed into a state of cryopreservation, eventually be revived, and then recover ownership of the investments the person had placed into the Trust. The plan is to create a Master Trust, with the possibility of an unlimited number of subtrusts that people could create under its administration. There would be standard language provided, and individuals could fill in the details. It would be comparatively simple to execute since the basic legal work was already done and fairly efficient, since the Trustees for the Master Trust would be able to administer all of the Trusts.
This form of Master Trust and subtrusts is used in many public benefit trusts, such as one here in Indianapolis, which provides extra funding for libraries, schools, and other community-oriented activities. A large Trust company would be the Trustee, with a committee of Alcor members to be a watchdog group.
The final text is farther away than hinted at in advance by Alcor; but I know the people working on this are very motivated to get it done. One big advantage for many of us is that there would be no minimum required to create the trust (well, maybe $100 or something very small). And you could even fund it through monthly contributions, since this is NOT intended to be the suspension funding. I look forward to finding out more.
At several points on Saturday and Sunday, individual attendees held small group presentations in side rooms. After The Trust discussion, one room was used to show a fascinating television documentary, “See You in the Future” by Camilla Roos. This film featured conversations with three Alcor members dealing with very personal issues in their lives (one man who is paralyzed, one woman whose husband is a cryopreserved patient at Alcor, and another woman signing up her grandson for Alcor membership), contrasted by interviews with a man with terminal cancer. The man is deciding whether or not to sign up for cryonic preservation. As far as we can tell, this is the first time this film was openly shown in the United States, although it has been shown in Europe and England several times.
Sunday afternoon was devoted to tours of Alcor and for a barbeque lunch in Alcor’s front parking lot. Again, this gave plenty of opportunity to connect with the attendees. Alcor’s new Patient Care Area received a lot of attention. Alcor has given this room a large viewing window so visitors no longer need to go into the patient area to get that experience. Alcor’s staff remained helpful and cordial through it all.
Further suggestions for next year:
1. I think we need pull back from so many talks on the future and instead focus on what Alcor and other organizations are doing today. If a cryonics organization is hosting a conference, my personal view is that we are best served by focusing it on cryonics. At our own conference, cryonics should not be seen as one of several “cool futurist subjects.” As you will see in the summary of the conference surveys in another article, many people want more of the futurist talks. But if I go to a nanotechnology or anti-aging or Transhumanist conference, I would not expect the subject of cryonics to have more than 1 or 2 places on the program. Yes, narrowing the focus to cryonics may limit our audience, but who else is going to provide this information?
We need more practical talks on what Alcor actually does on a transport and cool-down and why. How do we recruit new Transport Team members? What kind of training is being presented to them? How do we do the patient cool-down these days? At this conference, new people would not have heard much about the practical details at all; and old members would not have appreciated what is the same and what has changed from the way we were doing cryonics 20 years ago. With the emphasis on vitrification, a LOT has changed. We haven’t done a good job communicating that. And even more will change in the next year.
2. A talk on what cryonicists can do better in the future to interact with the “outside” world, from emergency and hospital personnel to government officials. How can we improve the legal security of cryonics patients and the public perception of cryonics?
3. More discussion on what kinds of technical improvements in cryonics are needed in the future. We need to let newer people understand how far we have come in some ways from the days in California, and we need to make it clear to our members and to prospective members that cryonics in general and Alcor in specific still have a LONG way to go before we claim success. We need them to understand that cryonics is still speculative, with a lot more questions than answers. We need to point potential researchers in the right direction, and we need to let the conference attendees know what they can do to help.
4. This might include talks on possible future financial improvements: how do we contain future costs so that cryonics remains affordable; how do we approach fund-raising for research; how is the Patient Care Trust managed to provide future funding for patient care, resuscitation research, and the resuscitation and rehabilitation of patients?
5. Larger conventions typically have more than one programming track, to fit different interests. Even for this conference, it might be wise for at least part of one day to offer one program track that is aimed at newer cryonicists. I don’t need to hear Ralph Merkle’s molecular nanotechnology talk again, and Merkle doesn’t need to hear a talk on most of the subjects I would talk about. But for probably a third of the audience at this conference, such talks are essential to their understanding of what this field is all about.
There was a great mix of people at this conference. If Alcor can get a similar group to assemble again, we cryonicists need to take better advantage of that and work harder to get them to understand what we face today. Speculating on the next century is meaningless if we don’t focus more on doing better in all areas today.
What the Attendees Said:
A summary of the 2006 Alcor Conference survey results
By Steve Bridge
As at many conferences, participants were asked to fill out a survey to grade their experiences at the conference. 68 attendees did so, and the results show just how varied a gathering this was. (A note on the vagaries of conference surveys: this also means than more than half of the attendees did not turn in a survey. We can guess that their answers might have been similar; but they also might have been so excited about their weekend that they didn’t think to fill out the form — or so unhappy with their experiences that they couldn’t bear to fill out the form.)
On the first question, “What was your primary reason for attending?” many people gave more than one response. 47 said “Speakers/Program,” 38 said to “Meet Alcor Members”, and 30 said either to “Meet Alcor Staff” or “Tour of Alcor.” At least one person was there to do research for a possible documentary film, while another was there to promote her new book.
The highest rated aspects of the conference were the “Speaker Presentations” and the “Conference Location”. 42 people said each was Excellent and nearly all of the rest listed them as Good. The “Q&A sessions,” “Overall Program,” “Conference Registration,” and “Staff/Customer Service” were also highly rated. The worst-rated aspect of the Conference by far was the category of “Conference Meals.” About half of the attendees rated the meals as Average, Fair, or Poor. One of the biggest complaints was not enough choices for vegetarians.
The real spread in opinions was on the speaker presentations. People were asked to list their favorite and least favorite sessions (and “Reasons why”). Brian Wowk’s talk on cryobiology research and its connection to cryonics was the leader with 19 people calling it their favorite session and only 1 person voting it for their least favorite. Ralph Merkle was the next most favored, with 17 people placing it first and only 1 person rating it at the bottom. Aubrey de Grey had 13 votes for favorite and 0 votes for least favorite. To show the variety of people in the audience, cryobiologist Gregory Fahy had 9 votes for favorite with comments like “Interesting, ” “encouraging,” and “relevant.” But he also had three votes for least favorite, primarily because they thought it was “too deep.” The futuristic talks of Robert Freitas, David Friedman, and J. Storrs Hall produced strong reactions both positive and negative. It seems that many people prefer the future speculation presentations; while a different sort of attendee may think these presentations are “too hypothetical, ” “too far out,” or “too technical.”
It may always be a problem to provide a variety of speakers that present a balance for the different audience members. And since the majority of responders said that “Speaker Presentations” were the primary reason they came, it seems obvious that your advertised list of speakers will greatly affect which individuals decide that your conference is the one they attend this year.
The recommendations for topics and speakers at future conferences also reflect the wide variety of interests represented at this conference. Several people suggested Ray Kurzweil and Eric Drexler, excellent speakers who have each spoken at previous Alcor conferences, but who are not primarily noted for their focus on cryonics (although Drexler has sometimes oriented his talks that way). Other requested speakers include cryonics physician and researcher Steven Harris, life extension speaker Kat Cotter, cell biologist Michael West, and Steve Bridge (thank you!).
I will quote many of the suggested topics:
— Latest progress/results;
— Plans for overseas training/facilities;
— Summary of recent cryonics history;
— A speaker about whether healthy living affects the quality of the cryopreservation;
— A speaker on life extension in terms of self care, health eating, exercise, and additional approaches (mentioned by several people)
— Talk about wealth preservation trust again;
— Continue to include non-science aspects (i.e., public policy, economics);
— Continue offering updates on cryobiology and include layperson review;
— Offer more up-to-the-minute information and less background material;
— Consider inviting a cryobiologist to debate with Wowk;
— Discuss incentives for others to revive cryopreserved patients;
— Discuss pros/cons of non-profit versus for-profit;
— Discuss protection for cryopreserved patients via third parties;
— Do a life insurance presentation;
— Explain what members can do if another member dies; Discuss end of life decisions;
— Discuss tissue regeneration;
— Discuss funding of Alcor, cryopreservation costs;
— Hold a discussion about neuro versus whole body;
— Need more info for non-US residents (e.g., standby);
— Ask repeat presenters to include new material.
There were many suggestions for “Areas to improve”; but they were very specific suggestions and not easily generalized, such as organizational and scheduling details, increasing the font on the name badges, more announcements needed before the presentations, etc. Most of these were sharp, useful suggestions and Alcor’s staff will be including them in the planning process for the next conference. One important observation by several people is that there weren’t enough opportunities for the attendees to meet and interact with Alcor staff — partly, in my observation, because they were so busy running the Conference that they didn’t have enough time for the important greeting functions. It is easy to forget in the hectic work of handling all of the (mostly hidden) emergencies that pop-up during the weekend that a large number of the attendees came specifically to meet the staff. I will help the staff look at various ways to handle that more smoothly next year.
When asked what was “the most beneficial aspect” of the Conference, the attendees listed these:
— Building relationships and meeting members/people (this was mentioned many, many times);
— Talking to others who share views;
— Knowledge/info on Cryonics;
— Learning about research; Discussion of technical advances and industry progress
— Discussion of Preservation Trust;
— Speeches appealing to general public;
— Open discussion of ideas;
— Good to keep doors from slamming;
— Professionalism of speakers;
— Feel more hopeful cryonics will work;
— Enough time for Q&A;
— Ability to visit Alcor
Finally, when asked if they would be interested in attending future Alcor conferences, 59 respondents said “Yes,” with 9 people not responding or answering “Uncertain.” No one said “No.” That sounds like a pretty successful Conference to me.
Barry Aarons, Alcor’s lobbyist, sent us the following analysis on the November 2006 elections:
As expected, incumbents held their seats with comfortable margins in statewide races. Governor Napolitano, Secretary of State Brewer, Attorney General Goddard and Superintendent of Public Instruction Horne were all re-elected, and Republican State Senator Dean Martin was elected State Treasurer. Republicans also captured both Corporation Commission races, retaining incumbent Kris Mayes and electing former House Majority Whip Gary Pierce.
In the State Senate, Republicans maintained their 18-12 majority losing a seat in Tucson (although that one is very close; and absentee and provisional ballots have yet to be counted) and picking up a seat in Yuma. All incumbents were re-elected. Representative Pamela Gorman will take over the seat vacated by Senator Dean Martin.
The House was a different story. Republicans have lost up to five seats from their 39-21 majority. Representative Cheryl Chase’s seat in Pinal County (she made an unsuccessful run for the State Senate); Steve Huffman’s seat in Tucson (he lost the Republican primary for Congress) were captured by Democrats; and retiring House Majority Leader Steve Tully’s seat in the north Phoenix and Scottsdale area were all captured by Democrats.
Incumbents Tempe Representative Laura Knaperek and House Health Chairman Doug Quelland were upset. Quelland’s loss (although that one is very close and all of the absentee and provisional ballots have yet to be counted) was the result of a Democrat assault on Speaker Jim Weiers who barely won re-election. Knaperek was likely caught in the Democrat turnout that elected Harry Mitchell over Congressman J. D. Hayworth.
Of importance to Alcor is that both Representatives Linda Lopez and Michelle Reagan were re-elected. Unfortunately Lopez’s effort to become House Democratic leader fell short and she will not be in leadership for the next two years. But she will remain an influential member of the Democratic caucus. (As an aside Lopez’s end of life legislation may have a better chance of getting a hearing due to the election results.)
The personality of the Senate will likely remain relatively conservative although the shrunken House Republican Majority may migrate the Senate to the center. Senate Majority Leader Tim Bee from Tucson will likely become Senate President.
The House will be somewhat less conservative and although the Speaker, who was again selected to that post, will have a working 34-26 majority and more compromise with the Democrats will almost have to be engaged.
In summation, we will again have a good position in the House. It is unlikely that legislation to regulate cryonics will be introduced; but we must maintain a careful watch regardless.
As for ballot propositions, all ballot propositions that sought to provide enforcement against illegal immigration were successful. They include propositions 100 (denial of bail for illegal aliens); 102 (punitive damage award restrictions for illegal immigrants); 103 (English as the official language); and, 301 (limitation on public programs for illegal aliens).
The two state land trust revision propositions (105 and 106) were defeated: as was the increase in legislative pay (302); the voter lottery (200); the constitutional marriage definition (107); and, the mail-in ballot requirement (205). The American Cancer Society anti-smoking ban passé while the RJ Reynolds alternative smoking ban (206) failed.
Of the remaining propositions, both the local government levy limits (101) and the municipal debt capacity (104) proposals passed as did the pig and veal farm animal pen restrictions (204); the minimum wage imposition (202); and, the early childhood development proposal (203).
Lastly the eminent domain limitation (207) and the meth incarceration (301) measures both passed.
Earlier this year, Alcor engaged in some long-term organizational planning. The result was the drafting of a three-year plan for development. Our plan broke operations into four main categories: membership, clinical readiness, research and technical development. It considered strategic positioning and facility improvements that would be necessary to transitioning Alcor from a small start-up into an organization that is capable of surviving successful outreach and mass marketing.
During the development of this plan, technical aspects had to be looked at in detail, because they affected nearly every department. Dr. Mike Perry, Alcor Patient Caretaker, prepared an analysis of the current membership and mortality statistics in an attempt to estimate the requirements for performing cryopreservation procedures at various membership growth rates. (See Cryonics, Spring 2006, for a brief summary of that analysis.) Dr. Perry’s analysis told us that we would face significant challenges if the membership grew faster than the technical capability could handle. His results encouraged us to hone our commitment to improving the foundations of our emergency response capability, in terms of both equipment and personnel. Once that infrastructure is in place, then we can consider improving the membership aspects and engaging in directed marketing.
Though the three-year plan itself will not be released in full because it was intended as an internal planning document (and will likely be subject to significant modification as time passes), we intend to update our members and supporters on elements that have been implemented or are being implemented in the near-term.
Research and Development
Aside from our standard administrative tasks and special projects like the conference, our time has mostly been spent on engineering improvements for the cryopreservation processes. We have begun automating collection of data during the cryopreservation process and control of the perfusion process, and this has necessarily included acquiring new equipment. In addition to progress made on those projects, we’ve needed to add a couple of items for the improvement of patient stabilization processes.
We’ve built a prototype of a partial liquid ventilation system for rapid cooling while performing cardiopulmonary support during a patient stabilization. Partial liquid ventilation is a process involving the introduction of a cooled, oxygenated liquid into the lungs, where the massive surface area can facilitate extremely rapid cooling. It’s partial ventilation, because the oxygen-carrying capacity of the fluid is insufficient to support metabolism, and so a patient has to have additional oxygen support.
Our mechanical system for partial liquid ventilation will allow us to cool patients during the critical first-minutes of the stabilization procedure, a vital capability that has the potential to drastically improve a patient’s overall cryopreservation. This system is expected to provide nearly the cooling rate of the blood washout, at an estimated half degree C per minute, with none of the invasive surgery or time delays. The prototype has now been submitted as Alcor’s first patent and is based on earlier work done at Critical Care Research. It is simpler to deploy, requires significantly less training to operate, is less expensive, and considerably more portable than any other device patented for this purpose.
We’ve also nearly completed a re-design of the portable ice bath (PIB), a lightweight bathtub on wheels which enables a patient to be cooled with ice and treated while being moved, such as in a hospital setting. The new design is based on an idea by Michelle Fry and was built by Randal Fry (with the help of Diane Cremeens). Our previous PIB was one of the least efficient pieces of our stabilization kit, and our new design should meet the requirements of being portable, easy to assemble, and capable of whole-body cooling. It should provide for more weight-carrying capacity than previous versions and has the bonus benefit of being able to go over curbs or a couple small steps and other surfaces, like grass, significantly improving our mobility. Once the design and testing of this ice bath are complete, we intend to replace all previous versions in the field. (We may actually build a couple extra units, because a local fire chief has expressed an interest in using one for their remote rescues and donating one to their cause would be good for community relations.)
Our research team is working hard on the development of a cardiopulmonary bypass laboratory. This development is important to beginning comprehensive testing of every aspect of the cryopreservation procedure, from the impact of different cooling methods or medications to the advantages and disadvantages of various cryoprotectants. Using our cardiopulmonary bypass laboratory, we intend to replicate the total body washout experiments performed by Cryovita and Alcor in the late 1980s and early 1990s in the rat model. We have acquired most of the equipment necessary to establish the model, and the protocols are being drafted for experimentation. Setting up the perfusion system has been the most complicated factor, and Chana Williford, Alcor’s Research Associate, has developed a design that seems likely to avoid one of the major problems of rat perfusion: priming volumes. This volume reflects the amount of fluid contained within the perfusion circuit, and should be as low as possible. Her circuit has an extremely small priming volume, and the design alone should be publishable in scientific journals if it holds up under scrutiny.
Intermediate temperature storage is something else we’re working toward and has been discussed for some time, but it is important to mention that providing long-term care of patients at higher temperatures, like -140 degrees C, does not actually eliminate fracturing in patients. We believe annealing, a process whereby strain can be relieved in glassy materials through raising and lowering temperature in a controlled fashion, may be the solution to eliminating fracturing in patients.
In order to test that hypothesis, we have completed construction on a prototype annealing test cell that will allow us to investigate the physics of fractures in our patients. We intend to begin testing our cryoprotectant next week. If this prototype is effective for its intended purpose, we will replicate it to allow for multiple samples to be processed during fracture experiments. Our hope is that we can develop a reliable protocol for minimizing – or even eliminating – fractures in our patients. This work is expected to take some time, as learning how to cool a pure cryoprotectant (our first step in the lab after building the equipment) is very different from learning how to cool a complex organ system.
In many ways, our research and development program is being built up from nothing. Lack of focus, changes in personnel and lack of serious commitment all contributed to poor development in technical areas in the past. Rather than leading the drive for improved cryopreservations, we were relying on external organizations for research and largely languished in areas of development. We have begun to repair this serious deficit and intend for the new research and development efforts to aid in our goal of becoming recognized as a serious scientific research organization.
Our new operating room has been assembled and is prepared to perform two cryopreservations simultaneously, one whole-body preservation and one neuropreservation. There are, however, two pieces of equipment that are not duplicated between the stations: the chiller (which provides cooling for the perfusion circuit) and the computer control system. We are not planning to duplicate the chiller, because it will be insufficient in the near-term to reach the depths of cooling that we have in mind for the new operating room table. The computer control system is being significantly re-designed; and once the new system is built and tested, that is the one we will replicate. Computer control will allow us to monitor more directly every aspect of the cryoprotection process; and alarms will be set to inform us when critical milestones are reached or if there are failures in the system. Aspects of the cryopreservation to monitor will include, but are not limited to, perfusion pressures, vascular resistance, cryoprotectant uptake and water loss, temperatures (naturally), and flow rates. This should allow for more comprehensive analysis of future cryopreservation cases.
Improving the emergency stabilization kits is also well-underway. We’ve designed a smaller version of the remote kit that will be more widely deployed, especially into new regions. This small kit will ensure the capability to administer surface cooling, cardiopulmonary support, and medications. It will not include washout capability at this time, as the more remote regions do not yet have personnel trained to carry out a washout procedure. The washout capability will arrive with Alcor personnel, in case of an emergency. Once the new kit has been tested in a field situation, then we will deploy it more widely. We intend to build twelve of these smaller kits, deploying them to places like New England, Nevada and Texas as supplements to fuller kits like the ones stored in California.
Expanding the field capability also requires training more emergency response personnel across the country and world. This expansion of the training schedule is well-underway. In 2006, we expanded training to include several regions, like Texas, Florida, and the United Kingdom. In 2007, we’re coordinating expansion to include Australia, New England, eastern and western Canada, and the Pacific Northwest. This will be in conjunction with the existing regions. Because this expansion will place a strain on personnel and training equipment, we’re strongly encouraging emergency response team members in the regions to gather periodically between Alcor-attended sessions, to review the training materials and practice the skills, and to contact Alcor when questions arise. Teams are responding well to this encouragement, and new people are contacting us nearly every week for training opportunities in their area.
And in Conclusion….
Much of this progress to date has been made possible because of the success of our matching grant earlier this year. It is still the case that the three-year plan is ambitious and will take significantly longer than three years to implement if additional funding is not obtained. We are cautiously optimistic about our chances for securing the necessary funding, because we’re improving our reputation for fiscal management; adhering to the financial controls that were set in place late last year; showing consistent progress on projects; and basically, sticking to the business at hand.
We still have a lot of work to do, but we have a good staff that is fully capable of handling the load. We’re pleased with the progress that has recently occurred, and we intend to keep the momentum going. Developing the plan has helped hone our focus on the things that matter, and everyone on the staff has great ideas on how to continue improving our procedures.
Needless to say, we’re excited about the current direction Alcor is headed, though we’re fully aware that there is still a tremendous amount to do. We hope you’ll stay tuned and see how this all develops.
The 4th quarter issue of the magazine includes several ethics articles, some focusing on cryonics and others focusing more broadly on life extension and discussing the history of medical ethics with opinions of prominent bioethicists. Two companies decided to advertise in Cryonics magazine starting with the next issue: Ameriprise Financial and Cryonics Society of Canada.
Windfall Films: Alcor provided B-roll footage for this UK documentary primarily featuring Aubrey de Grey and exploring the science of aging and life extension research.
Zig Zag documentary: The US version of this documentary debuted on the National Geographic channel in September.
Rolling Stone: A reporter from Rolling Stone magazine attended the Alcor conference in relation to a feature he’s writing about a man known as “Mystery” and for background research on a book he’s writing about life extension. He interviewed Tanya Jones.
Rizzoli Corriere della Sera: A reporter for this Italian magazine attended the conference and interviewed several Alcor members for his article.
“The Immortalist”: Two producers from Paramount Pictures attended the Alcor conference as part of their background research for a film titled “The Immortalist”.
The Quest for the Neverending Life: The author of a book investigating many areas of society’s interest in anti-aging visited the facility to learn more about cryonics, which she sees as a prominent movement in the effort to ward off aging and take advantage of medical technology.
MBC: Tanya Jones and Sergey Sheleg were interviewed for this Korean show addressing how the sciences may help extend lives.
AZ Republic: A reporter interviewed Tanya Jones for an article he’s writing about the wealth preservation trust.
The 6th Alcor Conference was held in early October. Results from the evaluation forms indicate that 93 percent of attendees were highly pleased with the overall program, and the positive energy of the crowd was obvious.
Attendees indicated the main benefit of attending the conference was the opportunity to meet members and build relationships with them. They also enjoyed the presentations. The top three presentations were given by Brian Wowk, Ralph Merkle, and Aubrey de Grey, respectively.
On the side of constructive criticisms, the food served at the conference was not healthy enough for the liking of the attendees. Attendees also requested that more be done to facilitate opportunities to interact with the Alcor staff and other members. We intend to do this is by adding the city/state of residence on the attendee badges and introducing the Alcor staff members to the audience, perhaps at the welcome reception.
In looking forward to the 2007 conference, we have identified ten potential sponsors. We also had several suggestions for possible topics, including several requests for a general discussion of longevity and how healthy living promotes life extension.
We are in the process of producing a conference DVD set for sale in an online webstore, which we have already started establishing. Advertisements for DVD pre-orders have been designed.
On October 31, 2006, Alcor had 819 members on its Emergency Responsibility List. Six memberships were approved during this month, no memberships were reinstated, one (1) membership was cancelled and no members were cryopreserved. Overall, there was a net gain of five members this month.
Though we didn’t have any cryopreservations in the past two months, we had several member issues, not the least of which was three member surgeries and one emergency admission to the hospital. All these members were fine and released from their respective hospitals. One of these members was inspired to start wearing his medic alert tag after years of it gathering dust in a drawer, so it had that net positive effect.
We also had two last minute cases develop. One of these cases was declined because of a combination of a lack of funding and the extreme amount of time between cardiac arrest and the time the individual was discovered dead. The other is a case still in negotiation.
edited 11-7-06 to improve clarity
We have completed the boil-off testing for the last of our new dewars (Bigfoot #12). Though this dewar is operating at a slightly higher efficiency that the previous two, it is boiling off about 16.7 liters per day. This is nearly twice the rate of our best performer, Bigfoot #9, which consumes just over 9 liters per day. We’re discussing the return of the new dewars for repair with the manufacturer, but will likely engage in some troubleshooting before they are sequentially returned.
We have arranged to purchase a plasma cutter for the patient care area. This tool will give the necessary equipment to rescue our patients, in case of a catastrophic dewar failure. It has been a slight concern that if one of the dewars imploded as the result of a vacuum failure, we’d have no way to rapidly extract the patients. Once this device arrives, we will have that capacity.
No resolution has yet been seen with the former liquid nitrogen supplier, Matheson Tri-Gas. It became apparent during a regular review some weeks ago that they had been charging us rental fees for storage dewars we did not have. They agreed to audit their records, but we have been unable to get any real numbers from them. Because of their lack of response, Tanya Jones personally audited our delivery records back through January 2004. What she learned is that the billing discrepancies were not a new problem. There was a net difference of 26 nitrogen dewars of various sizes (160 liter, 180 liter, 230 liter and 255 liter) for which we were consistently over-billed.
The next step is to compare her totals to the actual invoices, keeping in mind the discrepancies that were already in place at the beginning of 2004, and attempt to reach a settlement with Tri-Gas.
Progress continues to be made with the new whole body vitrification system. Our metal contractor has completed work on the operating table cold stage, and more equipment has been interfaced to the computer system.
This system will allow an unprecedented degree of control over the whole body cryoprotection and vitrification process, and in particular it is hoped the cooling stage will allow deep cooling to -100C on the operating table, avoiding the time and warming that results from moving to another cooling system. This is just part of what is being accomplished with the Bina and Martine Rothblatt matching grant. It is hoped that the work will be completed enough for thorough testing by the start of the year.
Minor renovations are being made to suite 109 to accommodate this testing and the bypass and vitrification lab being assembled by Chana Williford. We anticipate substantial completion by the end of this month. Chana is also assembling formal experimental protocols for all our activities to ensure more than full compliance with regulatory requirements.
(A.K.A. The Turkey Roast, BBQ and Pot Luck)
Once a year, Alcor cryonicists from around the Southern California area, gather together and have a fabulous party. What better way to meet and mingle with optimistic futurists from every walk of life! This is your opportunity to get answered all those nagging questions like: “who are these people?” And “What’s with the ice?” Bring a bathing suit and towel if you feel like a dip in the pool or hot tub.
Location: Red Rhino Ranch
10250 Penrose St.
La Tuna Canyon, CA 91352 USA
Our gracious hosts who have volunteered their private home are: Emi Joy and Baron Reichart Von Wolfsheild. You’ll be met with open arms and warm greetings.
Date: Saturday, December 2nd 2006
Time: 2:P.M. till 10:P.M. or until you can drive again
And/or call 310.795.0141 and coordinate with Regina Pancake on what you will
bring for the pot luck, so as to avoid embarrassing amounts of any one food group.